Friday of Advent III – John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

One day, many years ago, I was out walking with my son. He was in a stroller, so this was many years ago. It was a brilliantly bright day such as one has in Utah. We had walked along the through street which was close to our house when we saw an accident. An elderly woman pulled out right in front of a young man. He hit her car. No one was seriously hurt, but that could not be said for either vehicle involved. This town was not a large city and such an occurrence merited quick attention from the police. Soon I found myself talking to an officer and giving a statement of what I had seen. I was a witness. My testimony would help establish who was at fault and who would have to pay for damages.

This reading says that John the Baptist was a witness to the light. Then it goes on to tell us a little of his testimony. If you have ever been a witness to an event, especially if you testified in court, you know that your job is not to draw conclusions, decide the case, or establish guilt/innocence. You are supposed to tell what you have seen. That is all. The judge and jury will weigh the evidence, including your testimony. The decision is out of your hands. You are simply the witness. You have seen or heard something and that bears on this case.

I think we too often forget that about being a witness. We want to take responsibility for the decision or judgment and think that our Christian witnessing is a failure if it does not produce the desired result. God has not asked you to convert people. He does that. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convince and quicken faith in that other person. That is not on you. I think we also sometimes believe that Christian witnessing involves quoting the Bible or knowing theology thoroughly. No, being a witness is simply telling another what Jesus has done for you, what you have seen and experienced. Do not tell another person’s story. Tell your story. Telling another person’s story is called “hearsay testimony.” Only tell what you have seen and heard. That is valid testimony. You are a witness, like John the Baptist. He admitted who he was and who he was not. He told what Christ does. You can do that too. He promises you that this is the way that He builds His kingdom.

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